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Best Credit Card Offers for Active-Duty Military

Aug. 29, 2018
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Many credit cards offer good “civilian” perks, but a handful also offer outstanding military benefits for active-duty service members. To save big on fees and interest during your service, here are some cards worth keeping top-of-wallet.

When choosing the cards below, these are some factors we considered:

  • Extra benefits for active-duty military: All credit cards offer some active-duty military benefits under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, such as waived service and renewal fees (including annual fees) and interest rates on pre-service debt capped at 6% APR. But a handful of issuers offer more than what’s required, such as a longer benefit period or APR as low as 0% on accounts opened before active duty. In this list, we feature cards from issuers who offer more benefits than are required by law. For a full list of issuer policies, see NerdWallet’s guide to SCRA credit card benefits.
  • Other rewards and benefits: We highlight cards that also have outstanding ongoing rewards and benefits, compared with other cards in the same categories.

Note: With some exceptions, SCRA benefits for credit cards typically only apply to accounts opened before your period of active duty. If you apply for these cards during active duty, you may not qualify for the benefits.

Best for paying off debt / Best for cash back: Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Earn 1% back on every dollar spent and 1% back on every dollar paid off. $0 annual fee. Requires good credit. 

SCRA policy: For SCRA-eligible accounts opened prior to active duty, Citi offers 0% APR waived annual and other fees, such as balance transfer fees and late fees, during active duty, according to a Citi spokeswoman.

Benefits

  • High flat rewards rate of 1% + 1%
  • Annual fee of $0
  • No balance transfer fees charged on SCRA-eligible accounts
  • No penalty fees, such as late fees

Drawbacks

  • No sign-up bonus
  • Charges foreign transaction fees

Verdict

For SCRA-eligible service members paying off credit card debt — who can avoid this card’s balance transfer fees and get 0% APR during active duty — the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is hard to beat. Its industry-leading rewards also make it a top choice for everyday spending.

Best for luxury travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® . $450 annual fee. Requires excellent credit. 

SCRA policy: For SCRA-eligible credit card accounts, Chase waives applicable fees and reduces interest rates to 4% while you’re on active duty and for a year afterward, according to a Chase spokeswoman.

Benefits

  • High rewards rate: Earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Rich travel benefits, including a travel credit of up to $300 a year and Priority Pass Select membership
  • Big sign-up bonus: Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee of $450 (after SCRA benefits end)
  • Not a good option for folks who don’t spend a lot on travel and dining

Verdict

Among luxury travel cards, Chase Sapphire Reserve® is in a league of its own. With Chase’s solid SCRA benefits, it’s even more worthy of your attention — especially if you spend plenty on travel and dining.

Best for general travel: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel. $0 for the first year, then $95 annual fee. Requires good credit.

SCRA policy: For SCRA-eligible accounts opened before and during active duty, Capital One waives all credit card fees and caps interest rates at 4% APR during active duty and for a year afterward.

Benefits

  • High rewards rate of 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases
  • Big sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95 (after SCRA benefits end)
  • Not a good option for folks who rarely travel

Verdict

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is the perfect card for travelers who want to keep their options open. Its robust ongoing rewards, strong SCRA benefits and big sign-up bonus make it an excellent pick.

Best for big spenders: Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®

75,000 miles each year if you spend $25,000 on purchases. Annual fee of $150. Requires good credit. 

SCRA policy: For SCRA-eligible accounts opened prior to active duty, Barclays offers 0% APR for balance accrued prior to duty and during active duty, the issuer confirms. Fees, including annual fees, late fees, foreign transaction fees and balance transfer fees, are also waived.

Benefits 

  • High rewards rate: Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar spent on every purchase
  • Global Entry reimbursement
  • Those who spend more than $15,000 or $25,000 in a card member year can qualify for loyalty bonuses

Drawbacks

  • Annual fee of $150 (after SCRA benefits end)
  • Not a good option for folks who spend less than $15,000 per year on a single card

Verdict

For big spenders who prefer to stick to just one card, Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® is a strong choice. Its loyalty bonuses for those who meet certain spending thresholds increase its already-impressive rewards rate.

Best for fair credit: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

1.5% cash back on all purchases. The annual fee is $39. Requires fair credit.

SCRA policy: For SCRA-eligible accounts opened before and during active duty, Capital One waives all credit card fees and caps interest rates at 4% APR during active duty and for a year afterward.

Benefits

  • High rewards rate of 1.5% cash back on all purchases — an especially good deal for average credit
  • Potential for credit line increase after paying on-time five times in a row
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Annual fee of $39 (after SCRA eligibility ends)
  • No sign-up bonus

Verdict

For service members working toward a better credit score, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a cost-effective option with excellent SCRA benefits and outstanding rewards.